|Year||University Policies||University Practices||Student Union Policies||Student Union Practices|
Acadia University’s mission is stated as follows:
The mission of Acadia University is to provide a personalized and rigorous liberal education; promote a robust and respectful scholarly community; and inspire a diversity of students to become critical thinkers, lifelong learners, engaged citizens, and responsible global leaders.
The Strategic Plan for Acadia University includes the following statement:
As part of its commitment to the environment, Acadia also seeks to create an interpersonal, relational, and community environment characterized by civility and mutual respect. It is committed to a strong sense of connectedness and community on campus and to maintaining an atmosphere of open discourse and a tone of mutual respect that facilitates free speech and encourages the expression of a diversity of viewpoints and ideas.
The “Statement of Principles” in Acadia University’s Non-Academic Judicial Handbook states:
Acadia University strongly supports the principle of freedom of expression and inquiry, will protect the right of its members to express un-popular opinions and ideas and conduct re-search in unpopular areas, and will expect that members of the Acadia University community will recognize their responsibility to protect these rights for all other members of the community. The University does not tolerate intimidation (which includes, but is not limited to, harassment and “silencing” of unpopular opinions). We also believe that a fundamental code of behaviour is sensitivity to the effect of one’s personal behaviour on others and respect for their personal and property rights.
Acadia University’s Policy Against Harassment and Discrimination defines sexual harassment to include “visual displays of degrading sexual images,” and “offensive remarks of a sexual nature”. However, it further states that:
B.3: Neither this policy in general, nor its definitions in particular, are to be applied in such a way as to detract from the right to engage in the frank discussion of potentially controversial matters including, but not limited to, age, race, politics, religion, sex, and sexual orientation. These are legitimate topics and no University policy should have the effect of limiting discussion of them or of prohibiting instructional techniques, such as the use of irony, the use of conjecture and refutation, or the assignment of readings that advocate controversial positions.
Acadia University does not have a policy expressly preventing the University from charging security fees to students hosting discussions or lectures on controversial subjects.
On February 13, 2018, Heather Hemming, vice-president academic at Acadia University in Wolfville, wrote a letter to tenured professor of psychology Rick Mehta that the school has received complaints from students, faculty and others expressing concerns that “relate to the manner in which you are expressing views that you are alleged to be advancing or supporting and, in some instances, time that you are spending on these issues in the classroom." The views which vice-president Hemming refers include postings Mehta had made on social media and in the classroom which were critical of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“The university has a legal responsibility to provide an environment free from discrimination, sexual harassment and personal harassment,” the letter continued.
“The nature and frequency of these complaints and the significance of the allegations is concerning for the university, and we have determined the necessity of proceeding to a formal investigation.”
In August 2018, concluding its investigation, Acadia University fired Professor Mehta.
Free expression and academic freedom are not referenced in the Mission Statement of the Acadia Students’ Union’s (“ASU”).
The ASU Constitution states, in Section 3: Club Policy:
The Union shall not recognize or fund any group that does not uphold the provisions and spirit of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act as amended and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or do not allow open and inclusive membership to any member of the Union who may wish to join and is willing to pay a membership fee for doing so.
The ASU Constitution, Section 10: The Axe Radio states:
The purpose of the Axe Radio is to provide information and entertainment that is generally an alternative to mainstream media; to promote access to the media for individuals or groups with ideas and views not readily available from other media sources; to create an awareness of global, national, and local issues for the purposes of stimulating the free flow of information and encouraging constructive debate between members of society; to provide technical and stylistic training for interested individuals; to offer consulting services for any group wishing to establish a new radio station under the government definition of “campus and community” radio; and to discuss any potentially controversial content in a manner conducive to free thought and open debate, while maintaining a focus on factual information and not condoning irrational contempt of any particular group.
The ASU Constitution, Section 8: Campaign Rules and Regulations states:
7.(c) Any electronic campaigning sites or pages must be approved by the Chief Returning Officer before it may become publicly available.
8.(a) All campaign materials including posters, signs, sheets, and banners located both on and off campus must be officially stamped on the side shown to the public by the Chief Returning Officer.
Section 8 also applies limits to the maximum number and size of campaign materials.
The ASU Constitution in “Section 9: Election Publicity through the Union Media” places the following limit on candidates’ communications:
(a) Acceptability of The Athenaeum write-ups shall be determined by the Chief Returning Officer in cooperation with the Editor-in-Chief.
The ASU’s Student Bill of Rights and Responsibilities outlines Fundamental Rights and Freedoms including:
The ASU failed to defend academic freedom after Acadia University fired one of its tenured professors over comments he made in social media.
In February of 2014, Acadia’s student newspaper, the Athenaeum, planned to publish an issue focused on female sexuality. The issue’s cover featured an artist’s depiction of a woman clothed only in briefs which one of her hands is inserted under. An independent printer, TransContinental Media, refused to print the issue for the students because of the nudity. The ASU agreed to take full responsibility for the publication as long as a white cover was placed over the graphic cover, but despite this compromise, the printer continued to refuse to print the issue. The issue was printed by other means with the support of the ASU.